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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Apple Misses in 2007


Friends often accuse me of being Apple's biggest cult follower. They've also, in the past, accused me of being an Apple apologist and a worshiper of Steve Jobs.

Let's be straight. I always level criticism of Apple when it is due.

So let me take this opportunity to list Apple's mistakes in 2007.

BIG MISSES IN 2007

First, Apple totally gutted iMovie '08. This was a huge disappointment from the company that really never made crippleware before in order to sell a "pro" version. Sure, make no mistake, Apple wants to sell Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express. I own all three products. But the pro products were clearly designed for professional editing users who sit in their multi-flat screen editing rooms cutting documentaries, features and TV shows all day long.

iMovie was designed for home movies -- editing for the rest of us. And while Apple added some cool features making it easier to capture, edit and publish directly to YouTube, a video prodcast, or your .Mac web site, they truly cut some essential features out of iMovie that are important to home users. They took away key audio editing functions so critical to decent home moviemaking.

For instance, you no longer have the ability to do an insert edit. If you want to take a series of images or shots and add voice over narration along with music or insert b-roll over an interview with Uncle Joe, you can't do it anymore in iMovie8. That sucks. This alone would be reason to stay with the previous version.

The editing environment for iMovie '08 has also radically changed. Apple has made the file management more like iTunes and the clip viewing more like iPhoto. This is not in itself bad because it looks cool. But by doing so, Apple has removed some of the precision editors need and opaqueness that users need to troubleshoot their applications and projects. iTunes file management is a lot like Windows file management -- you do not know where the actual files exist and their formats are obscured.

I must say I am in total agreement with the growing number of Apple faithful who are criticizing this release of iMovie '08 and let's hope Apple sees the errors in their ways and fixes them soon.

Second, another big miss for Apple has been Apple TV or iTV as it was previously known. AppleTV does little to compete with the everyday appliances we own to manage our content coming from broadcast and cablecast television. You'd be much better off buying a Elgato's EyeTV and plugging it into a Apple Mini and just skip the AppleTV altogether. Apple has made AppleTV to reliant on buying content off Apple iTunes Store while restricting our ability to record and capture and thus timeshift live and recorded programs off the airwaves and cable.

AppleTV is a product worth skipping and Apple seems to have little interest in advancing the concept beyond being an oversized video iPod.

Third, Apple attempted a really meek and undetectable upgrade to .Mac and this entire environment needs to be moved ahead ten years in light of the improvements Google, Facebook, Myspace and all the other online personal space and tools for organizing oneself online. In particular, Apple needs to support its mobile computing products with a modern space for scheduling, managing group and family calendars and appointments and keeping lists. iCal and .Mac groups consistently have been big swing and misses for the .Mac team. Let's get up to date! iPhone users need to be able to do these tasks on teh fly without docking their phones to the desktop.

Another big miss in 2007 that Apple quickly had to backtrack on was the $600 bleeding edge iPhone. Early adopters got slapped like a whore from her pimp. Eventually, that was appropriately seen as so wrong and bad company behavior that Apple was forced to send out rebate coupons to make up for the $200 screw job.

There can be no question that Apple's biggest miss in 2007 was the exclusive deals with ATT and other European service providers. Faithful Apple users bristled at being forced into a contract with ATT. The missed opportunity was that Apple could have been on the leading edge of change in the cell phone industry by making the iPhone an unlocked handset and even better giving it the capabilities to use wifi and the internet for making their phone calls.

The cries against the exclusive ATT contract were deafening from our tech Uncle Walt Mossberg calling for governments or disruptive technologies (hackers) to "break the lock" to the reports that nearing 25% of the iPhone sold in the first six months were being unlocked by hackers to EEC countries requiring Apple sell unlocked iPhones.

Google will unlock the stranglehold that the big cell phone providers have on the industry and innovation. Apple could have done it and been a leader but they balked, the man is on base, and all the runners advanced.

Apple totally collapsed on this issue and acted very Microsoft-like by forcing users into contracts and denying them choices. And then, when hackers followed Mossberg's advice by unlocking and jailbreaking their phones Apple abusively bricked them with firmware upgrades. Imagine if, back in the mid-70s, Ma Bell had decided to fry touch-tone phones when certain fone-hackers discovered by replicating tone sounds into the handset could earn them free calls. Well, let's just say Steve and Woz would not have been very happy.

And when it comes to Steve Jobs -- his only revival for the most secretive, paranoid, and most retribution against leakers is George W. Bush. And I'm sure he doesn't like being listed in that company of men and philosophy of power.

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